Marc Rosenberg used his December column to list his wishes for the coming year. I thought I’d follow his cue and offer some New Year’s Resolutions – things that would improve our practice, and most particularly things that are within our own reach. Many ideas come from my 2010 columns if you’d like to go back and revisit those.

  1. I will do my part to eliminate Clicky Clicky Bling Bling. Cammy Bean coined this phrase a few weeks ago to describe perhaps the most common problem with e-Learning: too much going on unrelated to the instruction. Flying words and zooming buttons are distracters, not engagement techniques. Taking the ball Cammy threw, Kevin Thorn ran with it all the way to this wonderful definitive example of Clicky Clicky Bling Bling: His “e-Learning Christmas Card”:


a link graphic with Gingerbread man and the word

Figure 1. Example of Clicky Clicky Bling Bling design courtesy Kevin Thorn


  1. I will create interactions that make sense. In the real world, my learners will never need to drag definitions of types of investments and drop them on pictures of different coins. And hardly anyone’s job requires listing anything. ( )

  1. I will work to find more relevant examples and realistic scenarios. If learners who work third shift in a nursing home need better “patient relations skills,” give examples and activities that reflect the reality of interacting effectively with 90-year-old clients who have hearing difficulties.

  1. I will not use word-for-word narration of onscreen text. Research in multimedia learning (see especially Richard Mayer and Ruth Clark) tells us this is not only ineffective but, since we read and hear at different speeds, it can actually harm learning. Better to use good graphics and either text or narration. (PS: WHY is there so much onscreen text?)

  1. I will choose the right tools and only those. If you want to hammer a nail, get a hammer. Not a hammer and some needlenose pliers and oooohhh look at that long-handled high-tension, self-ratcheting, chrome-plated knurled chain stretcher. Same with e-Learning. Too many tools, popups, plug-ins, add-ons, and visits to external sites support exasperation, not learning.

  1. I will focus on critical content. Instead of trying to fit everything about the topic into the course, ask: what will the learner actually use on the job? What two or three key points will make or break performance? Cut away all but that critical content. If you must include other information to satisfy compliance “awareness” issues or stakeholder egos, consider linking to other material (such as a pdf copy of the policy) or allowing learners to access it outside the scope of the actual lesson.

  1. I will not overload my learners. Even if all the content is in fact critical it will be a waste if it’s more than learners can take in. Use headings and white space. Chunk material into digestible bites. Create modules when necessary.

  1. I will remember that the word “mandatory” does not make anybody think the training is important. Rather, it makes people think the training will be so awful that they must be forced to sit through it. Make it better.

  1. I will evaluate to IMprove my future work, not only to prove what I’ve already done.

  1. I will learn to say, “I’m not sure that’s a training problem. Can we talk about some other approaches that might get you a better solution?”